Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, Prior Performing Arts Center, the College of the Holy Cross, 1 College St., Worcester, MA
“Bringing the Holy Land Home” explores the impact of art objects manufactured in the eastern Mediterranean on the visual culture of medieval England and western Europe. At its center are an iconic set of mold-made tiles, discovered at Chertsey Abbey outside of London, but probably commissioned for London’s Westminster Palace around 1250. These include a famous pair of roundels showing the English king Richard the Lionheart and the Ayyubid sultan Saladin (Salah al-Din) in combat. Excavated from the ruined site of Chertsey Abbey in the 19th century, the original composition of the fragmented tiles has been reconstructed, including their lost Latin texts. The reconstruction has demonstrated not only that the entire mosaic addressed the theme of the crusades, but also that its design evoked that of imported Byzantine and Islamic silks.
Carried home by crusaders, Byzantine and Islamic silks as well as ceramics, metalwork and other items were highly valued by European audiences, who incorporated them into sacred objects, displayed them in places of esteem, and imitated their designs – as was the case with the Chertsey tiles. The composition of the Chertsey floor relies on visual traditions of textiles developed by Muslim and Orthodox Christian artists in the eastern Mediterranean, even while the iconography attends to the theme of English victory over foreign opponents. By pairing the Chertsey tiles with contemporaneous European and eastern Mediterranean objects, this exhibition endeavors to illuminate the specific and complex contexts that informed the tiles’ production and design.
Along with the Chertsey tiles, on loan from the British Museum, this exhibition also displays the Morgan Library’s Crusader Bible and medieval objects from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Worcester art Museum, Dumbarton Oaks, and Harvard Art Museums.
Exhibition website at https://chertseytiles.holycross.edu
Exhibition catalogue with contributions from Michael Wood (OBE), Andrea Achi, Paroma Chatterjee, Meredith Fluke, Eurydice Georganteli, Sean Gilsdorf, Sarah Guerin, Cynthia Hahn, Eva R. Hoffman, Richard A. Leson, A. L. McClanan, Nina Masin-Moyer ’22, Grace P. Morrissey ’22, Suleiman Mourad, David Nicolle, Scott Redford, Euan Roger, Alicia Walker, and Elizabeth Dospel Williams, available at
Thurs. Jan 26, Opening Lecture & Reception
Thurs. Jan 26, 4pm, Rehm Library
Dr. William Purkis, “Bringing the Holy Land Home: Crusaders, Relics, and the Transformation of Latin Christendom’s Sacred Material World.” Dr. Purkis is Head of School of History and Cultures at the University of Birmingham.
5:30pm, Opening Reception, Cantor Gallery
Sat. March 25, 8:30am-7pm, “Bringing the Holy Land Home” conference, held in association with the NEMC (New England Medieval Consortium)
Registration details will be posted at https://chertseytiles.holycross.edu/events/ in the coming weeks.
Lloyd de Beer, the British Museum
Paroma Chatterjee, University of Michigan
Paul Cobb, University of Pennsylvania
Matthew Gabriele, Virginia Tech
Sarah Guerin, University of Pennsylvania
Cynthia Hahn, Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York
Eva Hoffman, Tufts University
Richard Leson, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Amanda Luyster, College of the Holy Cross
Suleiman Mourad, Smith College
Nicholas Paul, Fordham University
Matthew Reeve, Queen’s University
Euan Roger, National Archives, Kew
Naomi Speakman, the British Museum
Elizabeth Williams, Dumbarton Oaks
Finally, if you would like to bring a group to visit the show on any date that the gallery is open (M-F 10 a.m. – 5 pm | Sat noon – 5 pm, Jan. 26-April 6), just email me to make arrangements. Admission and parking are free.